The fun starts here

A week off! Rufus is staying over and the intention for this week is to check my fitness before signing up for another go at Kilimanjaro. So that means a series of walks building up in distance and effort to test my knee.  During the week I hope to build up to a nice long walk up on to Fan Brecheiniog by Friday. The test will be the state of my knee after the week is up.  If it’s okay – I’ll be booking on to a trip taking place in January. If not – well, I don;t really want to think like that at the moment.

I picked Rufus up last night and we went straight out onto the hills above the River Tawe. It wasn’t too much of a hike but it was nice to get out in the fading sun. We ended up walking about 2 miles at a leisurely pace.

This morning, after a late breakfast, we drove over to Ystradfellte and the many waterfalls along the rivers there. I love the area and it’s been a part of my training for all the treks I’ve been on. Rufus loves the opportunity to get into water almost everywhere. I love the photo opportunities that the waterfalls give. Every time I’ve been here they are different. It’s always a challenge, not only to get tot eh waterfalls but also to try and find a new angle or approach. Today was no different.

The drizzle that started as we left the house turned into steady rain on the dual carriage way but it cleared to leave dreary grey skies as we parked at the start of the path to Scwd Clun Gwyn. We passed tow park rangers fixing a gate as we made our way tot he river and while I set the camera up for the first of many photos, Rufus explored the river bank. He didn’t start his normal habit of barking to get me to throw stones. I think because there were no stones to throw and he knew it.

We moved off to cross a bridge but the way was blocked by a kind of style. Rufus couldn’t squeeze under it (regardless of how hard he tried) so I lifted him over. He’s around 22kg in weight – heavier than a normal Cocker Spaniel because he is generally bigger than the average. Once over, he scampered across the bridge while I hauled myself after him. We walked up and along side the river, climbing the valley side to finally look down on Scwd Clun Gwyn from the opposite bank. Even this far away, I could hear and feel the power of the falls.

By now it had started raining again and so we sought shelter. A large tree provided this and we waited for around 15 minutes while the heavy shower passed over. In the end, bored by standing around, we set off anyway, resigned to getting soaked. But the rain stopped almost as soon as we left the shelter and by the time we’d squeezed along the narrow path high above the river, the rain had stopped completely.

Of course, it didn’t stay stopped and as we descended to the river bank again, the heavens opened for a short, sharp shower. Once we were soaked, it didn’t matter and my only concern was for the camera equipment. Eventually, we got to a spot where Rufus could take a proper dip and he spent a while swimming after sticks that I threw for him. I love watching him swim, specially when the water is clear enough to see his legs kicking against the current. The stick of choice was longer than him and he chose the most awkward way to carry it.

Finally, it was time to go home. At the bridge, I helped Rufus over (= picked up him and gently deposited him on the other side) He then turned to wait for the treat he normally gets when crossing a stile himself. I suggested he might want to give me a treat instead. There was no reply, and we made our way slowly back to the car, passing two lots of kids heading to the river dressed in heavy duty wet weather gear. The two park rangers were busy chopping down a tree as we walked past.

As I type this, safe and warm at home, there is a lot of snoring going on from the sofa, where Rufus is flat out on two towels, drying slowly as we both wait for dinner to cook.

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Waterfalls again

You’ve been here before, with us. I had a few ideas for photographs in my head and Rufus had stayed with me so we could set off early. I wanted to go to Ystradfellte again but this time for the woods and autumnal leaves rather that the waterfalls. We set off in the grey mist and low cloud in the hope that the weather forecast would be right and it would clear. It certainly showed no signs of doing so. The further we went up the Neath Valley, the more the mist turned to rain. But by the time we’d climbed up on to the Ystradfellte hill and parked the car, the mist had lifted. Perfect woodland photography weather.

We made our way down to the first waterfall and I found plenty of colourful leaves to offset the grey of the stones and the bright white of the water crashing over rocks. While Rufus investigated the water, I took some long exposure shots of the waterfall with golden leafed trees in the background. Then we made our way along the river, across the bridges and up on to the hill behind it.

I was a little disappointed that I couldn’t find the conditions I wanted but it was an enjoyable walk. The clouds were lifting completely and there was enough blue sky to raise the spirits – ‘enough to make a sailor’s shirt’ as my grandmother used to say. Rufus spotted a squirrel and was off, sprinting up a hill I could barely walk up. By the time I crested the top, he was bouncing around the base of a tree trunk, staring up into the branches. A squirrel was calmly making its way along the upper branches and Rufus was trying to figure out how to climb up. It was never going to happen.

On the way back, we had some quality time in the river and then it was off back to the car. Unfortunately, on the way Rufus was attacked by another dog. One minute they were sniffing each other quite nicely and the next it nipped him on the nose. Poor Rufus wasn’t sure what was going on and I quickly managed to grab him while four dogs ran around, barking and yapping. Rufus has such a soft nature that on the rare occasions that other dogs are aggressive, he is always taken by surprise. I had a few words with the owner, who was clearly not in control of the four dogs she had, but she was only interested in whether Rufus was alright. Somehow, I got the impression it was not for his welfare but to find out if I was going to make a big deal of it. I’d hate to think what would have happened if it had been a child that the dog had nipped.

Anyway, the most important thing was that Rufus was fine and there was no blood drawn. He recovered quite quickly and was back to his old self by the time we got back to the car. He got a nice treat when we got home, too!

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